Sunday 21 January 2018

Wexford Youths clinched another All-ireland title on Saturday

BRENDAN FURLONG At Ferrycarrig Park

Wallace's men seal victory with extra-time goal

TALL MIDFIELDER Gary Delaney accepted the responsibility as he powered home a 101st-minute header which ultimately proved decisive as it handed Wexford Youths a dramatic one-goal victory over a skilful Mount Merrion F.C. side in this excellent F.A.I. Umbro Youth Cup final played at Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday last.

Wexford Youths may have struggled for periods against the slick passing and composed football of their opponents. But it was a big mistake for the Dublin visitors when they failed to build on their one first-half goal, scored when playing into a stiff breeze. And despite all their slick build-up, they came up against a no-nonsense home back four in which Dale Scallen and Rajiv Kumar were outstanding, while 'keeper Shane Sinnott showed a safe pair of hands in dealing with everything the opposition had to throw at him.

Once they fell behind, Wexford Youths were left with a lot to do as the opposition looked the more composed side on the ball. But Mick Wallace's charges, as one has come to expect, were wellorganised and battled their way back into the game, playing their best football through the opening 20 minutes of the second-half. That spell of dominance could and should have produced more than the equalising goal.

But Wallace showed his faith in the players as he never panicked into making changes. Having got his charges in for the half-time break, he re-organised and energised the players to such an extent that they took control of the first 20 minutes of the second period, a spell where they played quality attacking football, creating several chances before the equalising goal eventually arrived.

Mount Merrion, on the first-half showing into the breeze, and with that one-goal advantage, looked a good enough side to go on and build on this. But their failure was possibly due to over-elaborate approach work, when a more direct route, given their quality up front, would have paid greater dividends. Instead, they allowed the home side sufficient time to get numbers back, with the result that they were eventually contained with some ease.

However, both sides still managed to serve up quality football, a factor that helped to give the large crowd a thoroughly enjoyable final, full of skilful individual play, solid defending and creativity in midfield, to go along with much quality up front, and this despite the fact that goals were in short supply.

Through the opening phases, Mount Merrion were enjoying lots of midfield possession as Karl Corbett and Mark O'sullivan were very prominent, while Marcos Byrne looked quite lively up front. But the home back four were capably dealing with the attacks as Dale Scallan proved a real stumbling block in front of goal. For all their early pressure the visitors never got a single shot on goal, being restricted to a couple of long-range efforts that flew wide of the posts, never seriously testing home 'keeper Shane Sinnott.

With Donal Shanley's huge workrate in midfield for the home side gradually bringing them into the game, they had to wait until the 16th minute for their first serious attack. Conor Mccarney, after a mazy run, forced a corner. From Danny Fitzpatrick's kick, Donal Shanley had a header just over the top.

Still looking comfortable on the ball, Mount Merrion continued to build attacks out of midfield, with centre-forward Marcos Byrne having a couple of attempts blocked away by desperate defending. The home side in one of their infrequent attacks saw Shanley power another header over the top, this time from a well-struck Dale Scallan free kick.

The exchanges through the opening half-hour were remarkable for the visitors' composure, but they were unable to shake off a battling home side, being forced into shooting from outside the area. However, their patience eventually paid off in the 29th minute when they took a deserved lead.

The build-up was fast and skilful, with Mark O'sullivan shaking off several attackers in an excellent run. Having cut into the right edge of the area, he placed a low pass into the path of Marcos Byrne who drilled a superb shot low into the bottom right-hand corner of the net past a helpless Sinnott in the home goal.

It was a significant breakthrough for Mount Merrion as they had threatened from the opening exchanges. Despite this setback the Wexford Youths worked the ball out of defence, forcing a corner when Gary Delaney had a header from a Donal Shanley cross knocked away, from which Ben Duffy drilled a low shot just outside the right-hand post.

Mount Merrion were playing with increased confidence, coming close to extending their lead, but Nika Arevadze, with the gap to goal having opened up, delayed his shot, allowing Dale Scallan to get back and get in the -goalsaving tackle, leaving the visitors with a 1-0 interval lead.

While it was an intimidating challenge for Wexford Youths on the resumption, they managed to raise their game, pinning the visitors back in a defensive situation through the opening 15 minutes. Conor Mccarney, who had proved a nuisance for the visitors with his strong running, saw an effort go just wide.

With the Wexford Youths' pressure increasing as they sought out an equaliser, the Mount Merrion back four came in for a real test, but Edward Mcdonagh and Cillian Murphy were standing up to the challenge, before eventually the much sought-after equalising goal arrived.

Joseph B. Wallace, son of manager Mick, who had been foraging incessantly in midfield, drove his way down the right centre of attack and broke into the area before drilling in a hard, low cross, leaving Chris Fenner to drill a superb shot from twelve metres to the net with the assistance of the underside of the crossbar, making it 1-1 after 58 minutes, and throwing the game wide open.

Having managed to lift the siege, Mount Merrion went on an attack, but Mark O'sullivan lifted his shot high and wide, while on 64 minutes, Marcos Byrne as he was about to shoot was denied by a desperate tackle from the covering Gary Delaney, saving a goal in the process. Five minutes later, Karl Corbett after a good break through the centre saw his shot tipped over by 'keeper Sinnott. During this spell of pressure, the visitors forced four successive corners but were unable to translate one into a goal, leaving the game to finish 1-1 and force extra-time.

Both sides sought out an all-important lead goal through the first period of extra-time. It arrived just one minute into injury time when Gary Delaney had a looping header from a Donal Shanley cross beaten out from under the crossbar by 'keeper Conor Little, but the lurking Delaney kept his composure to powerfully head home the rebound from ten metres, with the home side celebrating as the ball nestled in the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

That gave them a 2-1 lead which they managed to hold to the end, as they withstood a late Mount Merrion surge that failed to create a clearcut chance.

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